Challenging assumptions makes for better problem solving. Becoming better at it is simple. Practice. It trains the mind to see assumptions. These three challenging assumptions exercises from business are practice.
Challenging Assumptions Exercises From Business
The Assumptions Behind Agendas
Agendas dominate business. They come loaded with assumptions of the leading type. They purposely lead people to think along certain lines. Agendas thwart other lines of talk.
What’s the underlying assumption in any agenda? It’s that what’s on the agenda is important. It becomes a track for the group to run on. For instance, “controlling the agenda” is key. It even helps a business leader to control a meeting.
For these reasons, agendas stifle innovation. They suppress concerns. Only the innovations and concerns on the agenda are important. That’s the assumption.
It’s this assumption that leads to another. Keeping to the agenda is success. A good meeting means sticking to the agenda. Right? That assumption is so strong that few challenge the agenda.
The Assumptions Behind Customer Service
Assumptions fill customer service too. “Listen to the customers! They will tell you what they want.” This assumes customers know what they want. Do they? The New Coke fiasco shows what happens when no one challenges this.
Fast service automatically trumping slow service is another common assumption. For instance, take the same service. Make it faster. Is it better? Again, take a formal dinner. Serve the same food. Charge the same price. Give the same quality. Just do it all faster. It’s better. Right? Is it?
People prefer a slow, long vacation over a fast, short one. Fast dining has not wiped out slow dining. Take a good movie. Would people like it more if it came in a ten-minute version?
Challenge it. Slow service beats fast service as often as the reverse occurs. It’s very true when a relationship or experience sprouts from the “slowness.” How does one get a fast massage?
Six Challenging Assumptions Exercise Questions
Agendas and customer service give us plenty of challenging assumptions exercises from business.
Upon receiving an agenda, ask yourself:
- Are these topics really the most important?
- What non-agenda item could make the meeting successful?
- What concerns is the agenda suppressing that might sabotage the meeting or effort?
In the next customer service discussion, ask yourself:
- What could prevent customers from knowing what they really want from this service?
- How well does the data or survey uncover unspoken or unconscious customer wants?
- How could a slower form of the current service make better service?
If you like the answers, present them to the rest of the group. It’s good practice.
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